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OTA Wrap up

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 3:20pm
Missi and Bob recap OTAs and discuss comments from Mike Munchak and John Mitchell on Steelers Live.

OTA Wrap up

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 3:20pm
Missi and Bob recap OTAs and discuss comments from Mike Munchak and John Mitchell on Steelers Live.

Villanueva knows consistency is the key

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 1:08pm
Alejandro Villanueva on finding comfort in an uncomfortable position.

Villanueva knows consistency is the key

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 1:08pm
Alejandro Villanueva on finding comfort in an uncomfortable position.

Alejandro Villanueva's pool games with Kevin Colbert don't include contract talk

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 12:59pm

Alejandro Villanueva says he shoots pool with Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert every day after practice.

Stephon Tuitt says he's not thinking about his possible big payday

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 12:31pm

Stephon Tuitt is set to earn a little more than $1 million in the final year of his rookie contract. That’s not small change, but it’s less than what the Steelers will pay Tyson Alualu, a free agent they signed away from Jacksonville earlier this spring.

Villanueva: 'I have a lot of coaching to get'

Steelers.com News - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 12:20pm
Alejandro Villanueva understands the importance of taking part in OTAs.

Villanueva: 'I have a lot of coaching to get'

Steelers.com News - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 12:20pm
Alejandro Villanueva understands the importance of taking part in OTAs.

Ready to put his experience to work

Steelers.com News - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 8:56am
Playing time last season benefited Eli Rogers.

Ready to put his experience to work

Steelers.com News - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 8:56am
Playing time last season benefited Eli Rogers.

Rogers: 'Experience is everything'

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 8:55am
Eli Rogers on building upon last season and his goals for this season.

Rogers: 'Experience is everything'

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 8:55am
Eli Rogers on building upon last season and his goals for this season.

How JuJu Smith-Schuster fits perfectly into the big bodied slot receiver role

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 8:18am
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Just what can Juju Smith Schuster bring to the Steelers at the WR position? Physicality and a nasty stiff arm.

Normally when you think of slot WRs in the NFL, the archetype that comes to most people instantly is the Wes Welker, Jamison Crowder types. That said, not all teams use that exact archetype, and in fact as more teams continue to use the shorter more fluid CBs in the slot, a few teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, who utilize 6’’3 Jordan Matthews in the slot, have found a good amount of success over the middle of the field.

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When it comes to big bodied slots like Jordan Matthews, what makes them so dangerous is their ability to box out a CB, similar to that of Small Forward boxing out a Point Guard. There’s a difference in overall height and mass, which makes it difficult for shorter CBs because they have to fight through them. They can’t reach around and very rarely will they be able to get over the top of them.

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This can’t be better illustrated than this play here. Orlando Scandrick is in press matched up on Matthews in the slot. Matthews gives a little shake, gets inside and the 5’10” Orlando Scandrick gets completely boxed out on the slant.

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While this is only an 8-yard gain, this is absolutely frustrating for a defense because despite Scandrick being in the hip pocket of Matthews, he can’t have much of an impact on the pass because he’s a Point Guard going up against a Forward. He runs the risk of being called for interference if he were to start grabbing Matthews and with his size and length the only way he can stop it is by going through, or over, Matthews.

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This is the type of play that can become a go-to play for any QB, because if the QB knows he’s got Forward on Point Guard in man-to-man coverage, he’s going to have the inside slant audible on hand because it’s at least a good 7 to 8 yard gain.

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While I used Matthews as an example to demonstrate what a bigger slot WR is capable of vs. the trending archetype at slot CB, his play style doesn’t really resemble that of JuJu. While this next WR was mostly a boundary WR, he and Juju are so similar it’s like staring into a mirror.

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I’m talking about the pre injury Hakeem Nicks, who at one point looked like Dez Bryant’s twin. Nicks was a guy who didn’t have the greatest athletic ability but he was so physical, great at hand fighting and good with positioning his body that it didn’t matter how much separation he created.

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Right here Eli basically throws this ball up for grabs. He does this because he knows not only can he climb the ladder, but he’s physical and will not allow the CB to outfight him for the ball, even if that CB is Aqib Talib.

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This is very much an aspect that JuJu brings to his game. He knows how to adjust to those errant 50-50 throws and position himself so that the CB cannot make a play on the ball.

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Same type of play, only this time the pass is underthrown a bit by Darnold. CB has the inside and JuJu sees this, he adjusts, climbs the ladder and converts it into a TD. While this CB isn’t Aqib Talib, he’s flashing that similar type of ability that Nicks showed early in his career.

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Another area where they are extremely similar is when after the catch. When they get in the open field and take on defenders, they are downright physical but deceptively elusive.

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Normally on WR screens you see most WRs jump around and try to make guys miss. Hakeem Nicks takes one cut, puts his head down and puts that right hand out in front. The pure physicality of him was on display as he threw out the stiff arm and still got the 1st down.

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This is where JuJu’s game resembles Nicks the most.

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Similar type of play. Kessler dumps it down to JuJu on a screen. He immediately turns up field and stiff arms the CB out in front of him to the ground. Juju’s game is physicality and he plays with plenty of it.

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This is an element that Juju Smith brings at the WR position. He’s 6’1”, 215 LBs with about 33 inch arms. He’s a big guy at WR and he plays to that size, often using physicality to create separation and create yards after the catch.

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The Steelers haven’t had a WR like this since Hines Ward , and to a lesser extent Jerricho Cotchery. This is the type of weapon that could prove to be Big Ben’s security blanket over the middle and possibly in jump ball situations.

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Opposing defenders should be aware that JuJu will never let up when it comes to being physical.

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#Steelers pic.twitter.com/tcQ4Gz7RCO

— Blitzburgh (@Steel_Curtain4) June 7, 2017\n\n\n\n

Don’t let your guard down, or JuJu will make you pay.

Steelers OTAs Recap Day 9: More players speak out about Le’Veon Bell missing OTAs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 6:50am
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The Pittsburgh Steelers are almost done with their Organized Team Activities, and we cover all the news from their latest workouts.

In the first week of Pittsburgh Steelers Organized Team Activities (OTAs), Ben Roethlisberger spoke to the media about not having Le’Veon Bell in attendance. Most shrugged off the comments, knowing Bell was still recovering from groin surgery a few months prior.

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The vast Steelers fans base also picked up a pitchfork and torch and vented about Bell not being present for the workouts. Although it was reported Bell was in the team’s practice facility at least once during the three week voluntary workout process, it is hard to ignore Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu and Javon Hargrave, all who are injured or missed some time, yet were still there and present during the workouts.

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After Wednesday’s workout, other teammates voiced their opinion of Bell not being present for OTAs.

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#Steelers Ramon Foster, Eli Rogers both say they'd like to see LeVeon Bell at OTAs. Foster: "You don't have to work. Just be here."

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) June 7, 2017\n\n\n\n

Ramon Foster is a leader in the Steelers locker room, and he is very calculated with his words when speaking to the media. It might not seem like much to some, but the fact these key players on the offense are suggesting Bell should be present, is very telling.

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I understand the voluntary aspects of OTAs, but these comments by players like Foster and Roethlisberger shouldn’t just be swept under the rug either. I expect Bell to be present at minicamp, but the deadline for him to sign a long term deal, or play a year under the franchise tag (July 15th) is quickly approaching.

\n\nEli Rogers finally feeling good\n

When Eli Rogers signed with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent from Louisville, he came with injury baggage. Rogers had been playing with a messed up foot for the majority of his senior season at Louisville, and it ended his rookie season before it began. However, he was finally given the chance to recover from the injury.

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Now, coming off a stellar first year in 2016 where he caught 48 passes for 594 yards and three touchdowns, Rogers finally is feeling good. How good? Try “five steps faster” good, per Jeremy Fowler.

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Eli Rogers says feels 'five steps faster' since foot fully healed. Surgery in '15 fixed yrs-long issue, didn't feel completely right in '16

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) June 7, 2017\n\n\n\n

Rogers could be a huge piece of the Steelers’ offensive puzzle in 2017. With a year under his belt he will have a better understanding of the offense, a better rapport with Roethlisberger and the ability to read defenses with more efficiency.

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Don’t look now, but Rogers could be in for a huge step forward next season if defenses want to blanket Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant on the outside.

\nSmith-Schuster brings cerebral approach \n

Not every NFL rookie “gets it” right away. The time, the effort and dedication it takes to be good at the next level, but Steelers rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster seems to get it. Maybe it was his relationship with now USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann, or being able to work alongside Antonio Brown, but Smith-Schuster is doing, and saying everything right early in his professional career.

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Asked Steelers rookie @TeamJuJu how he can prove he's a physical slot WR when he's only in shorts. "Make tough catches across the middle."

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) June 7, 2017\n\n\n\n

Stop me if you’ve seen, or heard, of this type of post-practice dedication before. Yeah, I think No. 84 is rubbing off on the rookie.

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Rookie WR @TeamJuJu said he catches 240 balls, in sets of 20, off the JUGS machine after practice. If he drops one, he redoes the whole set.

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) June 7, 2017\n\n\n\n

Can’t go wrong with this philosophy of watching/breaking down game film:

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#Steelers WR @TeamJuJu said after practice, he watches each play 3 times. 1st focus: the whole play
2nd: the offense
3rd: Antonio Brown

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) June 7, 2017\n\n\n\nPhotos/Videos\n\n\n

Xavier Grimble making a back corner catch in the end zone. "There you go, X." says Ben. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/5GlFGmsdg2

— Chris Mueller (@bychrismueller) June 7, 2017\n\n\n\n\n\n

Xavier Grimble right into your living room during ninth #Steelers OTA on Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/8EJxWeEQlZ

— Chris Bradford (@BCTBradford) June 7, 2017\n\n\n\n\n\n

Grimble extends for a nice catch on this one but couldn't get his second foot down. Todd Haley then emphasizes body control. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/zbFiC4UYyq

— Chris Mueller (@bychrismueller) June 7, 2017\n\n\n\n\n\n

Javon Hargrave back at work as Tuitt, Hayward look on. pic.twitter.com/8UIEDEW8SO

— Chris Bradford (@BCTBradford) June 7, 2017\n\n\n\n\n\n

Scott Orndoff ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/xo1ySMaQEb

— Chris Mueller (@bychrismueller) June 7, 2017\n\n\n\n\n\n

Ryan Shazier posing for some TV/promo stuff (via his SnapChat) @pasports pic.twitter.com/lFbWGKo7rF

— Jacob Klinger (@Jacob_Klinger_) June 7, 2017\n\n\n\n

Rate Your Steelers Hate Results: The AFC North

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 5:50am
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By a close margin, BTSC readers have labeled their most-hated as it pertains to Steeler competitors in the AFC North.

When we at BTSC decided to poll the fans on which team they have unadulterated fan-hate for in each division, we were positive that New England and Dallas would lead in votes. They did. However, we had no idea who the fans would choose in the AFC North. Baltimore seemed like the obvious choice, but Cleveland is an old-school enemy. Then there’s the team that embodies the famous Chuck Noll label of “the criminal element”, the Cincinnati Bengals. The tally was tight.

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Lets view the results.

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Baltimore Ravens - 50% (664 Votes)

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Cincinnati Bengals - 49% (648 Votes)

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Cleveland Browns - 1% (23 Votes)

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The Browns, as expected, got a few votes for history’s sake And for the reason that they bring down the division with their ongoing ineptitude. Being downtrodden so long now, fans just feel sorry for Cleveland. But if this draft hits and they start to rise, they’ll be back on the radar of wrath.

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The decision came down to respect. Some Steeler fans actually have respect for the Baltimore Ravens for the hard-nosed way that they play, drafting strategies, etc. Fans still voted for them because of them playing Pittsburgh so tough and always being in their way for the division title. Some just don't like them at all.

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On the contrary, many fans stated their complete lack of respect for Cincinnati. Their mercenacy attitude, the “"criminal element” of some players and their fans being perceived as delusional.

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The Ravens received a very few more votes than Cincy. But it can be agreed upon that the hate is great for both squads. Just different.

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Be sure to join us starting today for "Rate Your Steelers Hate: Part Five”, as we visit the vitriol for the AFC South.

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NFL News: Is Steelers OLB James Harrison the subject of unfair scrutiny?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 5:30am
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This week, we discuss the NFL’s drug testing policy, the Jets’ shameless tank job, and J.J. Watt’s place in the NFL

James Harrison is the oldest defensive player in the NFL. However, thanks to an absurdly-rigorous (and often unconventional) training regimen and presumably awesome genetics, the 39 year-old edge defender has remained notably productive long after his contemporaries have called it quits. Which is great for the Steelers, who have been unable to locate a surefire franchise pass rusher—although it is important to note that Bud Dupree’s dominant showing to conclude the 2016 season makes him a strong candidate to assume Harrison’s mantle—since, well...James Harrison.

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Harrison made just seven starts in 2016, though he ultimately led Pittsburgh’s outside linebacker group in snaps. Naturally, this concerned the NFL, who administered six or seven “random” drug tests to Harrison last season, per him.

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Pittsburgh’s all-time sack leader has experienced similar scrutiny this offseason, having received his third drug test since April on Tuesday. Unfortunately for Harrison, his days of peeing in plastic cups are far from over, as the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement permits the league to administer as many as six tests per player per offseason.

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During the regular season, the league equips independent administrators with an algorithm that enables them to select test subjects at random. The NFL’s Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances, which you can read here (I don’t recommend ever reading this, by the way, as it sucks and is boring), claims that test subjects in the offseason are tested on the same basis as they are in the regular season, but come on. Obviously Harrison is being scrutinized. The question then becomes a matter of determining the fairness of said scrutiny.

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The short answer: yeah, this is fair. Harrison probably isn’t happy about it, sure, but when you are a 39 year-old position player who exhibits the functional strength to unroot a tree stump with your bare hands, the league is going to study your pee. Also, the NFL’s testing protocol is plainly outlined in the CBA. It sucks that Harrison and hundreds of other players are subjected to numerous drug tests throughout the season, but the league must remain vigilant in ensuring that the sport remains relatively PED-free.

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With that said, it probably isn’t unfair to call the “randomness” of the selection program into question. Again, the NFL is absolutely operating within their own self-imposed guidelines by testing Harrison so frequently, but it would be nice to see some transparency.

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Harrison’s production is understandably concerning, as only a select few defensive players have played well into their late 30s, much less anchored their respective units. If the league explicitly stated something along the lines of “James, you are not human, and we seriously need to test you more than anyone else,” Harrison and the rest of the league would nod with reluctant acceptance. Operating under this guise of unpredictability is fooling no one.

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Systematically picking certain players to test is kind of off-the-books, by the way. The CBA says particular players can be singled out if “reasonable cause” dictates so, but this is primarily reserved for a) dudes who have tested positive in the past or b) when there is sufficient credible evidence that links a player to steroid involvement up to two years prior to his college draft. The latter category obviously is not applicable to Harrison, and although Harrison has been accused of using PEDs, he has never tested positive for any banned substances. So, unless there is some sub-category to the “reasonable cause” rationale, Harrison does not objectively qualify.

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Expect Harrison to receive several additional tests this offseason, and even more when the regular season begins in September. “Random” tests, of course.

\n\nThe Jets are shamelessly tanking\n

In a move that would make the Sacramento Kings beam with undeserved pride, the New York Jets are tanking their 2017 season. And this is a good thing.

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The Jets released veteran linebacker David Harris and Pro Bowl receiver Eric Decker on Tuesday, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. Neither move was particularly stunning—Harris is 33, which is like, 38ish in linebacker years, while Decker missed almost the entire 2016 season with a hip injury—but the departures of Decker and Harris mark just the latest installment in a roster overhaul that has already witnessed the losses of Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold, who have combined to make eight All-Pro teams and 20 Pro Bowls.

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The Jets’ objectives are strikingly evident: increase their cap space, get younger and nab a bunch of high draft picks, including the no. 1 pick in 2018, which should net them USC’s Sam Darnold or another high-profile quarterback prospect.

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Fans should buy into this tank job. Aside from Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Sheldon Richardson (the latter of whom is scheduled to hit free agency next March), the Jets don’t have a strong veteran presence anywhere on the roster. They drafted highly-touted safety Jamal Adams in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but even if Adams instantly becomes the greatest defensive back in NFL history, it won’t be enough to transform the Jets into contenders.

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No, the Jets need to be terrible this season, and probably next season, too, if they hope to stockpile enough talent (whether through the draft or free agency) to field a competitive team in the foreseeable future. In fact, I would argue that the worst possible outcome for the Jets this year would be a 6-10 or 7-9 season in which Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenburg look like serviceable quarterbacks. Teams overvalue serviceable. Every coach in the NFL thinks he can mold a serviceable quarterback into a winner. As a fan of Penn State football, I have fallen victim to Hackenburg’s charms. It will take him six wins, 3,000 or so yards and maybe like a 17:11 touchdown:interception ratio to make fans think “you know, maybe we DO have something in this kid!” I promise you this will happen. He has that effect. I implore the Jets to be smarter. For the health of their franchise, New York must be no better than 2-14 this year.

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Teams assuredly have a duty to their cities and fanbases. When your foundation is filled with termites, wood rot and Josh McCown, sometimes tanking is a necessary evil.

\nRankings!\n

NFL.com is in the midst of ranking their top 100 players of the 2017 season. J.J. Watt, who would likely make the Hall of Fame if he retired from the NFL tomorrow, was ranked 35th on this list.

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Watt responded by calling the list “a joke” and implying that his ranking is too high since he missed the majority of last season with a back injury. Well, the joke is on you, J.J., because you are salty for all the wrong reasons, guy.

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Let me explain. The NFL composes this list every year and ranks players in the upcoming season based on their performance during the prior season. So, if you were awesome in 2016, there is a strong chance that your ranking on the 2017 list will reflect this. However, the people who develop this list seem to place a pretty big premium on a player’s statistics over the course of a single season. To provide a more workable example, this is kind of like Madden giving Rob Gronkowski a lower rating than, say, Kyle Rudolph. Utter madness.

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Watt is a three-time winner of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. He is one of only two or three defensive players in the NFL who have a legitimate case for the league MVP Award. He is the only player in NFL history to post two 20-sack seasons. Watt underwent a pretty serious surgical procedure, yes, but he is only 28! It is criminal, at best, to rank Watt no. 35 on a list of the 100 best current players. He may very well be among the best 35 or 40 players of all time!

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It’s cool and everything that J.J. took the #gritty “everything is earned, nothing is given” approach with his ranking, but let’s be honest, he knows EXACTLY where he belongs on that list.

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Asked and Answered: June 8

Steelers.com News - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 5:00am
Another installment of Bob Labriola answering your questions about the Steelers and the NFL.

Asked and Answered: June 8

Steelers.com News - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 5:00am
Another installment of Bob Labriola answering your questions about the Steelers and the NFL.

Rate Your Steelers Hate, Part Five: The AFC South

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 4:30am
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BTSC takes another walk down the dark road of detest and asks you to help determine the most dastardly member of the AFC South.

Of the four divisions in the American Football Conference, the South is the one with the least amount of history with the Steelers and probably the smallest amount of contempt. The Texans have only been around since 2002 and the Jags since 1995. The Colts and Titans moved from other cities. But is there enough loathing to like one the least?

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Let’s find out as we take a peak at the AFC South.

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Houston Texans

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The Steelers and the Texans do not have much of a rivalry at all, having only played five games since their 2002 inception. The Steelers lost to the expansion Texans 24-6, but the defense only allowed a field goal that day. I was in the stands as the Houston defense scored three touchdowns on two interceptions and a fumble recovery. The series stands at 3-2 in favor of the Steelers. Now with each team being represented by a Watt, things can get interesting. The two teams face off on Christmas Day.

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Indianapolis Colts

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The Steelers have really done well against the Colts throughout the years. They are 23-6 overall, including 5-0 in the postseason. There was a stretch from 1974-2002 where the Steelers lost only 2 of 18 to Baltimore/Indianapolis. Had they never moved in 1984, Colts vs Steelers would probably have become a great divisional-rivalry. And I wouldn’t hate purple so much.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

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Contrary to the Colts, the Jacksonvillains have done very well against Pittsburgh since their inception in 1995. The former AFC Central rival won the first ever contest between the two as an expansion team. The Jags are also one-up in the playoffs on the Steelers. In regular season action, the two teams are split at eleven. But the Steelers have won the last three in the series.

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Tennessee Titans

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This rivalry actual goes back a long way with the Houston Oilers having moved and morphed into the Tennessee Oilers and then Titans. Back in the 70s, 80s and 90s, this was an intense rivalry with the likes of Bum Phillips, Earl Campbell, Warren Moon, Jerry Glanville and Steve McNair leading the charge. The Steelers and Oilers used to battle for conference supremacy, with the Steelers winning three of four times in the playoffs. Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 45-32, but are only 8-13 in twenty years since they first played the Tennessee version.

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There you have it. Cast your vote and comment too. The results will appear in a few days.

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Eli Rogers a little giant among Steelers' receivers

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 11:00pm

In the land of Steelers giants scoots a little big man, 5-foot-10 Eli Rogers. He was their second-leading wide receiver in his first NFL season, and if nothing else his eyes grow bigger when he thinks how defenses might try to defend the big boys this season.

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